I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
I visited the last two of seventeen schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf on Thursday and Friday. Cwm Parc Primary clings to the side of the hill, way up at the top of the Rhondda Valley, and spreads across two floors like a rabbit warren, whereas Llanhari Primary, almost in the Vale of Gamorgan is wide open and has a wonderful garden out at the back.
I had two great days telling stories and doing drawings. My new shoo-tube.com website went before me at Llanhari, and the children were already drawing from my video lessons. It was quite a revelation for me. They were also expecting me to be able to draw, whereas I quite often arrive at a school and they don’t realise that I do the pictures too.
Years three and four were wonderfully appreciative. Every time I did a drawing, they clapped! Seems like an easy gig to me – it comes much more easily than writing!
Anyway, thanks to both schools for looking after me and bringing my grand tour of the Valleys to a brilliant end. It’s made me think a lot about Oracy and it’s role in writing and literacy too.
I’ve been telling a story about this little girl in schools and libraries for about ten years now. The story has changed and evolved in that time. I thought I had it cracked when I rewrote it around a pop-up gimmick I invented. But the banks crashed, the recession hit and it proved too expensive. I’ve been thinking about how to rewrite it ever since. I had one major rewrite, but it didn’t work at all.
It’s amazing the way the subconscious works. Last night I had an email from the editor I was working with at the time, Natscha Biebow, with a lovely picture of her son on his first birthday. She was writing to say she wouldn’t be returning to work.
I suppose, subconsciously, I’d been awaiting her return to get on with the story. Her email must have loosened something in the brain, because I woke at 5.30 with the answer. It was so simple I can’t think why it’s taken me ten years or more to think of it!
Am I going to tell you the secret? Of course not! Unless you are a picture book editor and would like to have a little look!
For the first time in my life, I’ve written something that has made me laugh out loud! Actually it brought tears to my eyes. It’s the character that did it – Axel Storm’s bombastic Uncle Ritchie’s character is expanding as I write. He’s a monster! I never knew this until I began writing him in.
He appeared in the distance, driving across the plain in a cloud of dust, screeched to a halt and surprised me as well as Axel and his Mum and Dad, who knew what he was like all along – otherwise they would have stayed at his ranch. I was reading the opening chapter out aloud and was taken by surprise at how awesome he has turned out to be! Axel thinks he’s wonderful.
You’ll have to wait ’til the autumn to read it. (Unless he gets edited into something more wholesome – will I be allowed to keep the shotgun scene!?)
Here’s a new video for you in the Writing School line, all about the ghastly business of editing. Everyone hates it, but the thing is to unclench and let go. Writing is a journey from me to you. Editing is the process of letting go. Hope you like it.
I’m so pleased that I’ve finished the fourth Axel Storm story before I go off to MIlan on Sunday. These things can play on the mind. I’ll be able to go away and not fret that I should really be writing.
I seem to have been away from home for most of this month. I tell myself that I’ll try and do some work while I’m away – but it never works out that way. A full day talking to children in school is very tiring and I never really get anything done while I’m away.
Having finished my story and emailed it to my editor, there’s nothing else to do but faff! Checking stuff before I go off on Sunday. Online checking in, google mapping, working out itineraries, charging batteries and getting ready for when I get back because I have two days in school in Gloucester at the end of next week. Busy, busy, busy, then a whole two and a half weeks at home for lots and lots of writing!
If I thought Cwmaman was at the top of the valley yesterday, I was mistaken. Way up high, much further on is Glynhafod Junior School, where I was today. A couple of hundred yards further on the village stops and the mountains continue – wild and empty.
Year Five and six came up with a new idea for how Viking Vik invented football. Another school I went to suggested that he made a ball from a pig’s bladder, today we had a leather bag full of leaves and sheep’s wool, which was a more satisfying plot. One girl went on to improve the story by bringing in a bit of enmity between Vik and his half brother, Wulf. In her story they invent dodgeball!
With year four, we got into a quite deep conversation about what the children would take from Earth to an alien classroom on show and tell day, as Ricky Rocket has to do in A present from Earth. One boy suggested a gun, which made us question what this would say about Humans!
Year three came up with a great idea for Monster Boy. An giant Electric Eel is living in a pond in the Forest and is electrocuting things. Monster Boy puts it’s power to good use, lighting up a fairy light walk through the Forest that brings in the tourists in their droves – great!
The school is almost 100 years old. In the staffroom is a wonderful push-button control panel, which I guess once rang bells in different classes. One button is marked, Master. Is this to call up a previous, frightening, overpowering headmaster or just a master button that rings all the bells at the same time? I’d like to think it is the former!
Thanks everyone for a great day.
I had a wonderful day with Cwmaman Infants today. The school is hidden way up at the top of the valley. I almost felt I was coming to the top of a fiord in Norway. Cwmaman is the home of the Stereophonics and this was the school they went to!
I read Little Horrors to year one and then we tried to come up with a new idea the the children could write after I’d left based on the Little Horrors stories and characters. I’m not going to share with you the idea we came up with, because I think I might see if I can develop it myself!
I did painting a d drawing with reception and the Just so Stories with year one. I managed to get most of them to get up and dance the hornpipe, as does the man of infinite resource and sagacity. As ever, my small, but very useful penknife was much admired!
Afterwards the year ones were making Welshcakes to take on a school trip to St Fagins on Friday. Everytime I’ve had Welshcakes before,they have been at least a day old and probably older. I was allowed to sample a fresh cake, straight off the “hot stone”. It really was delicious and the best I’ve ever tasted. Just as they should be eaten, still warm. They are cooked on a very low heat, slowly turning them and moving them around until they are cooked. Yum!
Thanks everyone for a wonderful day.
I was very confused when I arrived at Blaengwawr Primary School this morning. I was greeted with a, “welcome back.” I didn’t recognise the school. I’m normally very good at remembering schools I’ve been to before. But this morning I came in a different entrance.
I’d just started talking to Yrs 5 and 6 when it all came flooding back to me and I remembered when I last came. I was won in a Read a million Words in Wales competiton!
I remembered sitting exactly where I was and had a strong feeling of deja vue and was worried they had heard it all before – I hate repeating myself to an audience. But it was okay.
I was being filmed for the RAISE project too, which is slightly distracting. Anyway, we got an iidea together for a Viking Vik story and I left them to get on and write it while I felt my way through my first Monster Boy session. At the end we came up with a great idea for a story involving a shark living in a lake in the Forest. it has a taste for meat rather than fish fingers. so Monster boy got him a job flipping burgers – fun.
At the end of the day I got to read the new Viking Vik stories. All ere based on the same plot, but fascinating in their subtle differences in both plot and style. A great day fro me – thanks to all at Blaengwawr.